Risen: review

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Format: Xbox 360 (version reviewed), PC
Unleashed: Out Now
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Piranha Bytes
Players: 1
Site: www.risen.deepsilver.com

Risen is a real time action RPG. We thought it would be similar in style to Fable 2 but perhaps much darker in content. The trailers for the game suggested a lush exciting world, similar to the Fable universe in parts, but less cartoony. They promised battles with bizarre lifeforms and a range of characters in a deep and involved world.

Risen centres around your main character who ends up shipwrecked on an island. The island seems to be being terrorised by a group of people with magical powers called the inquisitors, who are fighting for control with a local gang. You arrive with a female companion who seems to like telling you what to do and taking a seat when work is to be done!

Gameplay is largely made up of carrying out a range of tasks for the non player characters dotted around the landscape. These range from simple fetch tasks to entering dungeons and caves with the intention of slaughtering various animals and monsters.

However, when the gameplay moves out of the countryside to the towns and villages, the tasks start to vary. The menu of tasks increases to include stealing for example, or revenge attacks. Which tasks you choose will have an effect on how the different ‘gangs’ in the game react to you. However, it seemed that whatever we did in the game there was no impact in the medium or long term.

Fighting is clumsy. Do not expect a Fable 2 (or even Fable 1) experience. Your character seems to only have one attack animation and blocking is crude and largely ineffective. The animation of your character is also very poor, as if he has had various knee operations which he is yet to recover from. We know this isn’t meant to be a fighting game in the same way as the recent Batman game, but Fable and other games have shown that it is possible to bring a simple but dynamic fighting system to a game with a third person perspective. Fighting in Risen is ugly and repetitive, so you can expect to die a lot and not enjoy looking at the game whilst it happens either!

You can develop your character with various skills as you would expect in a typical RPG. Risen’s skill system is quite in depth, but we hated the menus, which seem straight out of a PC where the player is expected to be nose to nose with their PC monitor. We experienced the game on a 40 Inch TV, which is still larger than what the average 360 owner has, and clearly no thought has been given to those players. Gamers with a small SDTV shouldn’t even try playing this unless they have a magnifying glass close to hand.

Presentation is inconsistent. The suggested design of the landscape is lovely, but very quickly you will notice poor textures. At times the textures just break down to reveal a gradient type ‘fill’ you would expect in Powerpoint! Many games suffer from ‘pop up’, and Risen should be included in that club – however, Risen seems to have more than just that one symptom. It suffers from scenery being coloured in as you walk along, especially landscapes which are above head height.

The worst aspect of the graphics is only seen during the daylight hours (indeed many of the faults are seen during the daylight hours – this game looks much better in the pitch black of night). We noticed some kind of strange filter or mesh across the graphics when it was bright and sunny. It was very off-putting and helped to ‘break’ the gaming experience as it felt that we were looking into the game through a window.

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The music is pleasant enough and certainly added atmosphere, and the other sounds certainly work within the environment, helping to bring the game to life. However the voice acting is very disappointing. The actors do seem to be putting a lot of effort into their lines. Perhaps too much so! You see, the animated scenes are so clumsy that along with the overacting it just results in a type of Monty Python comedy routine.

All in all, this is a meaty game. The game world is large and there are lots of tasks to complete. There are many skills to learn, and you can really develop your character. Hardcore RPG players might find some pleasure in this. However, more discriminating gamers would do well to steer clear. This is not user friendly; but it is (though we can only speak for the Xbox 360 version) clumsy, with laughable dramatic scenes and pythonesque combat. We have decided that we’ll wait for Fable 3.

5/10

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Written by Steven G

Steven Gurevitz is the CEO of 2002 Studios Media LTD and a founder of gaming accessory company Asiiya. 2002 Studios started off as a music production company, but produces a range of content from videos to videogames. The company specialises in localizing content for global brands. He also owns the Urban Sound Label, a small niche e-label. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor and co-owner CriticalGamer.co.uk. He enjoys FPS, Third person 'free world', narrative driven and portable gaming. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor to CriticalGamer.co.uk.

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